2017-06-24 “Dear Leader” TNKR Global Leadership Forum

TNKR held the third global leadership forum on Saturday June 24, “Dear Leader” featuring author Jang Jin-sung. The event was co-hosted with New Focus International. Mr. Jang discussed his escape from North Korea, analyzed various issues related to North Korea, and fielded a number of questions during Q&A. We took many photos, I will post many of them here, so it may take a moment or two for the photos to load up.

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The fourth TNKR Global Leadership Forum will be held on July 29, RSVP here. Speakers currently scheduled.

Kenneth Bae, Korean-American missionary held hostage in North Korea for two years.

Lee Mi II, president of the Korean War Abductees Family Union.

Hwang In-Cheol, representative of KAL Abductees’ Repatriation Committee (KALARC) and TNKR Fellow in Human Dignity.

Signe Paulsen, representative, OHCHR (Seoul) will give opening remarks.

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2017-06-25 Speech Coach Orientation & Open House

Today is the 67th anniversary of the Korean War starting. We marked the occasion at TNKR by holding two planning sessions to help TNKR become more effective at helping North Korean refugees.

  • At 2 pm, we held a Speech Coach orientation for coaches who will be helping refugees entering TNKR’s 6th English speech contest. Tomorrow I should be holding one or two more orientation sessions for applicants who couldn’t make it today. If they all get their applications completed then we can start matching them together.
  • At 3:30 pm, we held an Open House session to discuss ways for applicants to get more involved with TNKR. It was one of our most productive sessions. If just half of the participants follow through then you can expect some big changes within TNKR!

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2017-06-19/21 Be a magnet

Years ago a former supervisor of mine gave me a fantastic compliment. He told me that I was an energy center. He added: “Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but there is always SOMETHING going on around you. You seem to be a magnet.”

These days, that SOMETHING is Teach North Korean Refugees. We are attracting volunteers, donors, fans, media. It has gotten to the point that we have staff volunteers rotating shifts in the office because we don’t have enough space to accommodate them all at the same time. I am amazed that we get so much done with such a limited budget and office space.

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2017-06-19 TNKR featured in Neon Magazine (Germany)

Jun Michael Park posted on Facebook: SEOULMATES, NEON Magazine, 07/17.

A story on how the NGO (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees is teaching English to North Korean refugees and enabling them to reach higher and achieve more. cc: Sharon Jang Casey Lartigue Jr. Eunkoo Lee
Text: Jurek Skrobala
Photos: Jun Michael Park
Special thanks to Amélie Schneider and Frauke Schnoor.


2017-06-18 Noblish speech #3

Winston Churchill supposedly said: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” That is definitely true with me.

I was one of the featured speakers at a Noblish event. The start-up organization was founded by Sunny Eunhwa Kim. Sunny is an energetic and lovely lady, she is so busy that she makes me feel like I am sitting at my desk all of the time. Roger Fusselman was the other featured speaker, he gave a great talk about creativity. He is a skilled speaker, so I was able to give the audience advice about making great presentations based on his.

My topic was “Making Effective English Presentations.” Of course, I also talked about TNKR.

Two of the South Koreans at the event pledged to make small donations to TNKR. Another lady called me an angel, which of course I disputed.

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2017-06-17/18 Weekend tutoring

It is Saturday, but I’ve been at work today because of some deadlines coming up. Two study pairs also came by today. I’m always delighted to see Amy. She was studying today with Ive. A lot of laughs, but Ive also kept the focus on making sure Amy learned. Amy has improved so much since she joined us in September 2015, TNKR is tailor-made for a student like her. She is so busy with many projects and activities, so studying at a hakwon is out of the question. She can’t attend those classes regularly. But she has tutors who are really patient and flexible, changing up the days, times and places to meet with her.

The other student who came by today has also had an interesting path with us. She studied in the Matching program in our early days. She returned recently to In-house tutoring (transition program), then rejoined the main part of Track 1. Improving her English has become really important, and she has shown it by focusing on learning. In our early days, we had few rules and expectations, but she is one of the students who can really see the difference between now and 2013.

She is studying with Josef, a young man who joined us last week. He energetically informed me that he received his first donation to TNKR!

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Is this what grassroots looks like?

Thanks to volunteers coming together to raise money, TNKR can pay its rent and cover basic necessities! One day we may even be a sustainable organization, we have been building a community of support around NK refugees. Recognizing our unconventional approach of focusing on 1:1 tutoring rather than workshops or glamorous fact-finding trips abroad, we realized that we must rely on our volunteers and others who support our work, not big companies or goverment.

So far this year, 95 tutors and 60 refugees have joined TNKR. We strongly recommend that all tutors set up a fundraiser on our new crowd-funding website. We now have 4 months of results.

Based on entry into TNKR, here’s how our volunteers and fans have done at fundraising this year:

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2017-06-15 TV podcast, TNKR presentation

Yesterday began with TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue being interviewed for a new TV podcast.

In the afternoon, two TNKR refugees gave speeches to a group of high school students visiting from the USA.

And around all of that, tutoring sessions for refugees, Eunkoo Lee having feedback sessions with refugees to get an understanding about their experience in TNKR.

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2017-06-12 Harvard Global Networking Night

Brag, brag, brag, that’s what people were doing at last night’s Harvard Global Networking Night. It was great, we were able to tell some influential people about (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees. Best of all, some of them were already familiar with TNKR!

TNKR co-directors took a break from work to join Harvard Global Networking Night. It is great to join networking events where people are expected to talk about their activities. So I shamelessly introduced TNKR! I often encounter people who are afraid that others are bragging or having a good time, so it is was fun meeting with people who want to hear about what others are doing and also want to inform you about what they are doing.

It was delightful when we met some influential people who said they were already aware of our important activities.

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2017-06-11 “I appreciate that volunteers help North Korean refugees” (TNKR Matching session 58)

Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) started in March 2013 as a hobby for TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue Jr.. Although it is still operating with a small budget–$18,000 in 2015, $40,000 in 2016–it has become an internationally known NGO that has been featured in major domestic and international media.

Earlier today we held Language Matching session number 58. The attention is naturally on the refugees, but I think it is easy to forget that today we had 8 new volunteers sign up with the agreement that they will tutor refugees twice a month for a minimum of three months for 90 minutes each session. With tutors on average accepting two refugees, it means they will be tutoring at least once a week for free.

For Eunkoo and Casey, it is all so beautiful to see that after four years we still have many volunteers coming to TNKR to help refugees. Many organizations fail or go bankrupt after three years, but we have held on, have a solid reputation, and are continuing to grow with new supporters finding us. We never get tired of it despite the struggles in building an organization from nothing into something. We now have some volunteer staffers who are seeing all of this for the first time. One began crying as he was making a presentation, getting choked up as he discussed tutoring students. Two other new volunteers attending their first Matching session also said they got choked up listening to the refugees discuss why they needed English and they were impressed with volunteer tutors explaining why they wanted to help.


Overall, about 55 percent of students in TNKR are college students, but today was an exception, 80 percent of the refugees joining today are working.

Reasons students stated for joining: Read more